Nearly 30 prisons across the UK have won awards for the Six Book Challenge this year and we are aiming for even more in 2015. This should be given a boost through a special campaign we are running with the support of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and in partnership with National Prison Radio to encourage all prisons in England and Wales to run the Six Book Challenge this winter. We also hope that every prison in Scotland and Northern Ireland will run the scheme in 2015.
Here are six top tips for success from David Kendall who leads our work with the Six Book Challenge in prisons.
1. The library
Choice of books, displays, access, and promotion are all key factors. It should have a wide range of reading materials suitable for less confident readers such as Quick Reads, Brinsford Books, Barrington Stoke, the ever popular urban fiction section, and the Dark Man series from Ransom. Christine Foster from HMPYOI Deerbolt said: "I've just sorted myself with an urban fiction section and they're just flying off the shelves."
These can be across the whole prison - education, workshops, seg and so on. At HMP Wandsworth, tutor Claire Veillard runs her classes in the gym, and the men select different sports and health titles for their Challenge.
Word of mouth is the best endorsement. Shannon Trust mentors and library orderlies are all effective ways of reaching beyond the library walls. And Challenge completers can act as powerful champions.
Lu at HMP Wandsworth said: "The Six Book Challenge has got me reading again. It is the choice that reading gives you - it opens up the world, and you can feel normal."
Dylan at HMP/YOI Feltham said: "I enjoyed the Challenge more than I thought. When I started I felt that my reading was at quite a poor standard but as I progressed I became more comfortable reading different books."
"Today, I've been up to the education block twice, promoting the Challenge. The prisoners are interested, some because they want to better themselves, others because they want the incentives. Prisoners in the class who did it last year will always talk it up to their mates. Also because the classes run for 6-8 weeks there are always new prisoners to talk to." Duane Collins, Librarian, HMP Risley
55 is the average number of days a prisoner stays in a prison such as HMP Pentonville and yet they've achieved 300 completers in 2014. With a high churn it's important to get the Challenge in from induction onwards.
The Six Book Challenge was mentioned in a third of the reports made by HMI Prisons in 2013. Make sure that senior managers know about your success.
There's nothing like a chocolate bar to help the Six Book Challenge along. But remember that Give a Book is offering free dictionaries for prisons which achieve more than 40 completers and that National Prison Radio will congratulate completers on air as part of their support for the Challenge.
Getting senior staff on board
At our celebration event for prisons in October 2013 Gabrielle Lee, Governor of HMYOI Deerbolt, gave this keynote speech about how involved she is with the Challenge:
Please contact David Kendall if you have any questions about the current campaign or how to get materials.